Over the last few years, immigration has been a very hot topic on the national stage. This discussion has included the topic of border security, which is something that has impacted many families in the Chicago area. When individuals are caught crossing the border without documentation, they can face criminal charges and be sent back to their native countries, even if they are just looking to be reunited with family in the United States.

Recently, the Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered details about a federal program that has become a concern for many observers. Since 2005, Operation Streamline has been in effect. This is a federal effort to find individuals crossing the border, immediately file criminal charges and prosecute them quickly in an effort to deter similar action.

Reporters relayed one instance during which 54 people were detained by federal officials and were swiftly ushered into a hearing. After speaking with an attorney for only a short time, all the individuals were asked to enter a plea. All of them were convicted and sentenced in "less than 90 minutes." This type of procedure has many wondering whether this is a violation of an individual's due-process rights.

According to reports, the "zero-tolerance" approach supported by Operation Streamline has led to convictions in every single case, which obviously has important criminal defense implications. When an individual is apprehended and tried in such a short amount of time, they have very little time to speak with an immigration attorney to truly understand what rights and options they have.

Although Operation Streamline covers a specific immigration scenario, undocumented immigrants facing criminal charges of any nature face the threat of deportation. The concerns about due process and adequate legal representation are present in all of these cases. More than anything else, the recent reports are a reminder of how important it is to approach criminal charges and deportation hearings consistently and thoughtfully.

Source: KQED News, "Arrests Do Not Deter Many Would-Be Immigrants," G.W. Shulz and Andrew Becker, May 28, 2013